Posted in connections, differences, mental health, mindset, socializing, storytelling, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Statistics vs. actual people

Individual stories are where real emotional power lies.

I mean, that 3,000 people were killed is quite something.

That millions were killed in WWII is staggering.

They’re numbers. They’re big numbers. They’re easy to wield, hard to comprehend.

“A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.”

Stories? Those are where power lies. Not because it’s not sad to lose thousands of people at once, but because stories are where we connect.

That’s why there are transcriptions of last phone messages from 18 years ago.

That’s why a group (or more than one, possibly) is putting together the story of each individual person we lost in the terrorist attacks in 2001.

That’s why Anne Frank’s diary is so compelling.

That’s why we don’t interview people who are Other.

When we hear someone’s story and are open to it, we connect with our shared humanity. There are parts of their story that could be our story. It touches us. (Sometimes a story touches us despite our best efforts to stay closed. Those are the best.)

So … listen to people. Especially people who are different than you. Listen to their story. Connect with them. Share your humanity.

Posted in differences, ebb & flow, mindset, motivation, storytelling

The freedom of doing things just for fun

Last night, my name was picked and I got to tell a story on stage at The Moth.

(I didn’t tell any stories involving wedding dresses, as they ended up not making good stories. More like good anecdotes. I told a story about a brazen comment in a conversation with my first principal-to-be.)

Because I didn’t think of a good story until I was parking my car, I didn’t have time to practice telling it out loud. It wasn’t as polished as I would have liked, but it came out well, the audience was responsive, and I had a good time.

The judges were not impressed, and my scores were pretty low (relative to the way scores typically run). And while that stung for a moment, overall, it didn’t matter.

I got to go on stage, tell a story, make people laugh a little, and have a good time. My motivation wasn’t to win or to achieve a certain score.

It didn’t matter what the judges thought, and their opinion didn’t take away from the fun I’d had in performing.

If they had loved it and I scored well—aside from a really high score also not being appropriate because it wasn’t that good—that would have added another dimension, but either way, it doesn’t change the experience of the performance itself.

This lack of being tied to the outcome is a relatively new thing for me.

I’ve had a bit of it in learning to play ukulele. I felt pressure to play a little bit well when I played with classes, but I have been playing just for fun for a few years now.

I had some but not enough in the bouldering competition I entered last year.

The photography game app has been delightful to get positive feedback from, but there are definitely some pictures that I like a lot that I think are objectively good photos that just don’t get a lot of attention.

And it doesn’t matter. Because I’m taking pictures for me. As long as I like them, they’re good. It’s disappointing if no one else likes them, but the people in the app aren’t my primary source of validation. (But I’m close to finishing in the top 100 in one of these silly games, and I’m pretty excited about that! I digress.)

Even blogging. It’s important to me that what I put up here is well-written and thoughtful, but ultimately, I’m writing to write. Very different experience than when I was blogging as part of my business.

Many things that I’ve done for fun in my life have been solitary and without tangible results. For example, I’ve always liked to read in my free time. There’s nothing external to disconnect from.

And the activities that had results were fun but anxiety-provoking because I was always worried about how I was being judged. Music especially.

So my next step is to see if I can infuse this disconnect into other areas of my life, because it’s very liberating. It doesn’t provoke poor quality—probably better quality in many cases, because I’m not stressed or anxious—and it’s just … fun. Even when it’s work, it’s fun.

Process. Not results.

Posted in mindset, storytelling

Boldness

I’m volunteering at The Moth StorySlam tonight in Phoenix. While I’m there, I can throw my name into the hat for an opportunity to tell a 5-minute story on stage.

(I’ve had the opportunity to tell stories twice. One went well; the other, not so much.)

The theme this month is BOLD.

I’ve been thinking … what have I done that is bold and makes a good story?

What have I done that is bold?

I came to realize that it depends on perspective. I’ve been called synonyms of bold for wearing my hair really short. I don’t feel bold doing it, though. Authentic? Lazy?

Perhaps I need to shift my point of view to see what an audience might see as bold.

Unless I think of something better, I’m going to talk about getting married … twice … with no white dresses involved. Which, much like my hair, doesn’t feel bold but was a big deal the first time. (I think for second marriages, people at large are more chill. And also, my mother wasn’t involved at all.)

What have you done that is bold? Does it feel bold to you?

Posted in food, meandering, storytelling

An interesting challenge: Canada edition

The Climbing Daddy is friends with the couple who own the fishing lodge we stayed at in Canada. As a result, we were there the week before they officially opened for the season, so they weren’t serving meals.

They were apologetic but assured us that in terms of appliances and equipment, there was a fully stocked kitchen.

We flew into Williams Lake, a small town northeast of Vancouver, where we were picked up for the 90-minute drive northeast to the lodge. Before heading up, we went grocery shopping.

This was the challenge: what were we going to make?

It’s always challenging to cook in someone else’s kitchen. We didn’t know exactly what “fully stocked” meant. We didn’t know what foods would be available or not in small town Canada. And we needed everything for cooking—no set of oils, spices, dressings, etc. on hand. And we didn’t have international roaming, so no internet while we were at the store.

It turned out, there was a fridge/freezer, oven, stove, microwave, coffeemaker, kettle, toaster. There were pots and pans and a few but enough cooking utensils. Dishes, bowls, plates, glasses, mugs, forks, spoons, knives. There were a few Tupperware-type containers. There was a grill and tools on the patio. Some napkins, aluminum foil, hand towels, dish soap, and a drying rack.

There was salt, pepper, honey, and packets of artificial sweeteners.

At some point, we borrowed a colander.

The biggest challenge in preparation was making food that was tasty without a spice cabinet. We had prepackaged pasta and salads (that came with dressing) and made other things from scratch. We had fruit and nuts and cheese for snacking. Eggs, potatoes, a bag of fresh stir fry veggies.

Overall, we ate well and it was, if nothing else, entertaining to pull meals together.

If we had thought of it, we would have bought a couple more storage containers (and just left them for the next guests). We couldn’t keep many leftovers, and it would have made life a little simpler (and fewer dishes!) if we could have made larger portions with leftovers.

If you had a “fully stocked” kitchen (without really knowing what that included) and only one chance at the front end to go food shopping, what would you plan?

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, mindset, motivation, storytelling

My 20-year anniversary of…

…my senior recital.

For those who didn’t go through this, a senior recital is a big deal (for most of us). As an education major, I was required to perform a 30-minute solo recital as one of my graduation requirements. (I could have instead performed a 30-minute jury, which means just for a panel of professors who would grade it. Either way, it’s a 30-minute performance.) Many of us included some sort of duet or small ensemble as our final piece, and the ed majors usually shared recitals, taking turns, making an hour-long performance between the two.

Anyway, for anyone, it’s a lot of work. And it’s a little intimidating for those of us who were more accustomed to performing in an ensemble.

But my sophomore year of college, I developed some random pain issue in my right pinky finger. I was able to play my flute for 10-15 minutes each day before the pain caused me to stop. It would linger for hours. I also couldn’t write and ended up buying a laptop to be able to take notes.

It was written off by doctors as tendonitis.

I stopped taking lessons and participating in ensembles so it could rest. Six months later, with no improvement, I was given warning that I couldn’t continue in the music department without lessons or ensembles, since they were required for graduation.

And so I stopped playing flute and started playing trombone. Trombone doesn’t use any fingers.

Being a beginner in college was terrible. I took lessons with someone in the trombone studio, and at the end of my junior year, I successfully re-auditioned into the department on trombone.

Needing to be good enough to give a recital before I could graduate, I was immediately off the four-year plan. I practiced as much as I could, but like any other physical skill, the muscles need to build strength and endurance.

By my second senior year, I was practicing two to three hours every day, in addition to time in ensembles. I was getting … less bad.

Now, I hadn’t been a great flute player at all, and I suspect expectations of me all around weren’t that high. I don’t really know, and it’s probably just as well.

But something happened in these years. I learned grit. I had a giant mindset change. I had been very fixed mindset. When I started college, it was “The people around me have been taking lessons for years and I’ve only been for one year. I’ll never catch up or be as good.”

At the time, I had no idea what else I would do with my life, so switching to another instrument and continuing on the same path was the only viable option. I had to catch up and be as good.

By my third (and final) senior year, my private teacher suggested I was playing well enough to pass a jury. There was no way I was giving a jury! I’ve done massive amounts of work to get here—I’m giving a recital!

And so I did. On April 18, 1999, a Sunday evening. In a satiny blue shirt and black pants. Sharing a recital with a sax player. I played well. I was excited and proud.

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done (with regards to things that require preparation and skill).

By the time I graduated, I had shifted to, “If I can get this good in this amount of time, what happens if I keep going?”

I found a teacher in NYC. I practiced three or four hours most days. In the financial desert of a teacher’s summer, I paid my bills playing gigs and teaching lessons.

All of that, 20 years later, is represented in this anniversary. A date I remember and at least give a head nod to every year.

At this point, I haven’t played a trombone in quite some time. Moving to Arizona wasn’t good for my playing, and when time became scarce, trombone was one of the things to go.

But the lessons I learned, the mindset shift—to say nothing of all the extra things I got to learn and do in two extra years of school and all of the amazing people I met on my musical journey—those have stayed with me. And maybe one of these days, I’ll pick the old horn back up and start over again.